SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - Lake Superior State men's basketball lost for just the second time this season at home inside Cooper Gymnasium on Thursday (Jan. 12) to Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division rivals Ferris State, 111-103.
Both teams entered tied with Grand Valley State and Michigan Tech for second-place in the North Division standings. The loss leaves the Lakers (8-4, 5-3 GLIAC) tied with the Huskies for fourth in the division, while the win propelled the Bulldogs (12-3, 6-2 GLIAC) into a three-way tie with GVSU and Wayne State for first place.
The Lakers fought back from a 13-point deficit with 5:32 remaining in the opening half, using a 15-2 run to tie the game 46-46 with 2:15 left in the first half. Senior center Michael Smutny connected on a pair of three-point field goals and two free throws during the stretch, giving the Lakers eight points in six minutes off the bench during the first half.
On the strength of 54.5 percent (18-33) shooting from the field in the first half, the Bulldogs were able to fend off the late push and claim a 49-46 advantage at the break.
Out of halftime, the teams traded baskets back and forth and went into the first media timeout of the second half with the Lakers trailing by a single point following a three-pointer from junior guard Akaemji Williams. The trey from Williams with just over 15 minutes left in the game was already his ninth point of the half, finishing with 17 in the second half alone.
Moments later junior forward Jessy Cantinol sunk a pair of free throws to tie the game at 64-64 with 14:02 remaining. After the Lakers drew the game even, the Bulldogs responded with a 17-7 run over the next four minutes, capped by Peter Firlik's three-pointer with 10:11 remaining to put FSU ahead 81-71 and forcing LSSU to call a timeout.
Again, the teams traded baskets over the final 10 minutes with LSSU only coming as close as six points with 48 seconds remaining following a dunk by Nicholson. FSU finished the game by hitting four-of-six free throws in the final minute to keep the Lakers at bay.
Williams led all scorers with 28 points and collected his fifth double-double of the season with 11 assists, marking his 11th time producing at least eight assists in a game this season. The native of Pontiac, Mich., also tallied six rebounds, two steals and registered a block in 38 minutes of work.
Nicholson was the only other Laker starter to reach double digits, collecting 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor, but was limited to just 19 minutes due to foul trouble. The rest of the LSSU starters, Blake Marquardt, Carson Manger and Josh Goldschmidt each scored just six points.
One of the biggest bright spots for the Lakers, however, was the bench, which combined to outscored the Bulldogs bench 45-35. Senior Jordan Dasuqi led the way for the LSSU reserves with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor, including going 3-for-3 from behind the arc. Smutny also chipped in 12 points and three rebounds, while freshman Ke'Montrece Collins marked the third reserve player to reach double figures in scoring 11 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes of action.
The Bulldogs received double-digit scoring from all five of their starters, led by Firlik's 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Firlik also connected on both of his three-point attempts and all four free throw tries.
Markese Mayfield led FSU off the bench with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting and collected his team's only double-double by also hauling in 12 rebounds.
The Lakers next play host to Grand Valley State at 3 p.m. Saturday.